Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Exactly Is The "Good News"?

The Bible speaks of the "good news." What is that good news? In Acts 10:34-43, Peter covers several facets of that message that have amazed many down through the centuries.

First, in verse 34, Peter mentions something that is truly good news for everyone regardless of nationality or ethnicity. He says that God is impartial, that God doesn't care what nation we are from. To become accepted by him, our motives and conduct are what he looks at.

Next, in verse 36, he relates something that anyone who has ever dealt with injustice from governments should be absolutely elated over, namely, that Jesus' rulership is even over and above all earthly governments, being "Lord of all others." (this is not an ineffectual rulership. In time, Jesus will act to remove human rulership and bring relief and benefits to all his earthly subjects.)

In verse 39 he relates something that may at first seem like a huge disappointment--Jesus was put to death by devious lies from the Jewish religious leaders and carried out by Roman rule. But in verse 40, there is yet more, almost unbelievable, good news--God brought Jesus back to life. As proof of this good news, Peter indicates in verse 41 that there were many eye witnesses of the risen Christ. Backing up the numerous eye witnesses, Peter mentions in verse 43 that a number of Hebrew writers (prophets) points to Jesus and the impact he would have on those accepting and rejecting the message.

Finally, in verses 42, Peter mentions that this is not a hidden message or one that people would have to travel great distances to hear. Instead, Jesus "ordered" that those who had knowledge of the resurrected, empowered Christ should spread the message near and far.

So although the "good news" is multi-faceted (just as a diamond has many facets depending on its cut), it is still one single diamond--Jehovah, through his written word (The Bible), points to Jesus as the solution to mankind's problems. Or, as Peter put it in Acts 4:12, "God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." (New Living Translation, copyright 2007)

Granted, this is not good news for the governments of this world that oppress mankind. This also is not good news to any that insist on creating their own set of rules, their own standards and measure of what is right and wrong—those that reject the Bible’s clear and simple moral code. But to those that are sincerely and humbly looking for what God wants of them and willing to follow what is outlined in the Bible, the promise of rule by God is very appealing and is the greatest news they have ever heard.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Them’s Fightin’ Words!

Those who remember old western TV shows and theater movies are well-acquainted with the title of this article. Christians also put up a battle, but it is “not against flesh and blood,” but against Satan’s spiritual darkness whether it be in the form of false religious teaching, outright atheism, or national-political fervor—all of which is included in Paul’s words at Ephesians 6:12. (Again, I emphasize that although the above three are physical manifestations of Satan’s “darkness,” Christians are not to literally fight or engage in physical altercations/confrontations with them. This is confirmed by 2 Timothy 2:24.)

A Christian’s battle is two-fold: First, to protect one’s self. Second, to fearlessly declare God’s Kingdom to any and all who will listen and, hopefully, help others take a stand for truth and righteousness. Paul makes these points clear in the words that follow what he wrote in Ephesians 6:12….

(Ephesians 6:14-18) Stand firm, therefore, with YOUR loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and with YOUR feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. 16 Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which YOU will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. 17 Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, 18 while with every form of prayer and supplication YOU carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones….

The reason I have underlined the action-words is to drive home the actions being emphasized. Take note that they are all defensive and not offensive. When I started this article, I was particularly intrigued with what Paul said about the “helmet of salvation.” I wondered why it was rendered “accept the helmet” and not “put on” or some such phrase. I checked the rendering of multiple other translations. While at least one did translated it as “put on,” the majority used the word “take.” Upon scrolling down in the list, I found a commentary by “Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary” that pretty much said what I expected to find. That is, “take, receive, and accept” are all legitimate forms of the original Greek word that Paul used. But what was the significance of “accepting” the helmet? I figured there had to be some gem of insight that is easily overlooked.

Then I started reflecting on what I knew of the people of that time—especially those Jews (Israelites) that were contemporaries of Paul. For many of those, it was a challenge to accept Jesus as their salvation because they had become steeped in tradition and Jewish Law. Accepting Jesus in the minds of the leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes) was tantamount to heresy, apostasy. For those “of the nations,” it may have been foreign to their ideologies to entrust salvation to anyone but themselves. There are even cultures today that are repulsed by the idea of belief in and trust in a savior. So now Paul’s words make perfect sense in that social climate—he was admonishing those in Ephesus to humbly accept the provision that God had made for mankind’s salvation. “Accepting” for the Jews meant having to put aside their trust in working out their own salvation through sacrifices and other acts prescribed by the Mosaic Law. They had to realize that nothing they personally could do would ever amount to salvation. However, after accepting the ransom sacrifice of Christ as the basis for their hope of salvation, they could now perform works befitting repentance and acceptance of Christian responsibility. Even in this modern world, some find wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle to be bothersome. They feel self-confident that they are strong enough to withstand whatever can happen. This drives home even more so how humility and following direction are important when it comes to accepting the helmet of salvation.